It's time a for a new year and a fresh start. Why not start the new year right with a reinstall of Windows 7? Or maybe you received a new laptop and you don't know what to put on it. Have no fear RTU is here, to talk about the Windows Must Have Apps For 2012!
Google's Chrome browser is still the best browser around. Sure IE9 and Firefox5 are sufficient, but Chrome is faster and has a cleaner interface. Best of all, it doesn't require manual updating, it updates itself. I don't even know what the current version is and quite frankly, I don't care because it's already up to date! Chrome also has a web store where you can find numerous apps: games, news, shopping, social communication, and much more. I highly recommend the Click & Clean extension, it's great for scraping all the nasty crud that your browser accumulates over time. I never run Chrome without it.
Stardock's ObjectDock is still the best dock around. Thanks to this dock, my desktop is clean and shortcut free. You could even configure the dock to completely remove your start menu entirely. You'll revel in joy as minimized windows drop on your dock. Stardock offers a free and paid version with the latter giving you the ability to use multiple docks!
Microsoft Security Essentials
Microsoft Security Essentials is currently at version 2 and it's still the best free protection software around. It functions as an antivirus, antimalware, antispyware, and network inspection system. I've been using MSE since it first came out and I love it. It self updates and if it ever requires your attention, you get a simple balloon notification. It may not be the best antivirus on the market, but it's certainly the best free one. Remember, you are the best antivirus, not the software.
If you follow my advice above, then you won't need Malwarebytes. But just in case, it's a good idea to keep Malwarebytes installed and up to date. This isn't something that runs in the background, so be prepared for a little care. I run it once a month to keep definitions up to date. I rarely need it, but when I do, it's a lifesaver.
I wish we lived in a perfect world where nobody wants to gain access to your stuff. Unfortunately, we don't. This is where Zone Alarm comes in. It's an amazing free firewall product to keep those pesky intruders away from your machine. It takes a little while to get used to because it annoys you about every little program that starts up. But wait that's not annoying, that's what it's supposed to do!
Gmail and/or Hotmail
In addition to the best email services, Gmail and Hotmail, Google and Microsoft have given us FREE cloud storage! I keep many of my files on my Google Docs and SkyDrive. The space they give you is limited, but sufficient for any normal user. If you need more space, buy more. By keeping your files on the cloud you can forget carrying and losing USB keys. The cloud is always there when you need it.
One advantage of Hotmail is that you have access to web versions of Word and Excel. Gmail has it's own editors as well. If you can't afford the full Office Suite or if you're cheap, like me, web apps are a perfect solution. Through Gmail you can open up a free Google Voice account. With Google Voice you get a free phone number which forwards calls to any phone you want. Think of it as your own personal number. This is great for people who have multiple cell phones or frequently change their number. My favorite feature of Google Voice is that it transcribes voicemails into texts and emails.
Windows Live Mesh
If you already have a Hotmail account then you can use Live Mesh to automatically sync up data between multiple PCs. Windows Live Mesh is part of the Windows Live Essentials suite of software. If you don't have multiple PCs then you can sync to the cloud for the sole purpose of having a backup. You never have to worry, your data is safe on the cloud. Set up is a cinch and just like Hotmail, you are given a small amount of space for free. As always, you can buy more space if you need it.